In his first novel, the national bestselling The Book of Shadows,James Reese beguiled readers with a boldly imaginative, darkly erotic tale of awakening that introduced the captivating and deeply unusual Herculine. Now this extraordinary writer continues Herculine's incredible journey of self-discovery -- a search that will lead her into a world of shadows and perils, where she will taste the forbidden and find redemption.
September 1826. Taught to trust ... and to learn by a quartet of remarkable saviors, Herculine is bound for America, leaving behind a strange and violent past in France for an uncertain future in an exotic new land. Arriving in Virginia, Herculine is led by fate to Mother-of-Venus, a mysterious old slave woman who is blessed with gifts both terrifying and strange, and to a young poet named Edgar Poe who is haunted by evils of the past. Under the mystical guidance of Mammy Venus, Herculine soon calls upon her powerful legacy to rescue Celia, a beautiful, damaged slave. Landing in the coastal wilds of Florida, Celia stirs passions -- and dark, otherworldly powers -- within Herculine, propelling them into an erotic obsession that only the missing witch Sebastiana d'Azur can break.
Hope comes in a missive that will lure the desperate Herculine north, to the chaotic streets of New York and a strange, magical house in which the confused and eager witch is accepted by a band of like-minded sisters and introduced to exquisite carnal pleasures. Finally loosed from the shackles of shame and desire, Herculine heads south once again to find salvation and fulfill her destiny.
Set in a time of promise and peril, bondage and bloodshed, James Reese's lush, richly atmospheric, and beautifully told tale shatters the boundaries between the living and the dead, the magical and the ordinary, the imagined and the historical. A novel of the mind and the senses, The Book of Spirits is a mesmerizing and unforgettable work from an exceptional talent.
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James Reese is the author of The Witchery, The Book of Spirits, and The Book of Shadows. He lives in South Florida and Paris, France.From Booklist:
*Starred Review* Reese's second gothic-style novel is an involving, richly detailed chronicle of witchcraft along the eastern U.S. in the early 1800s. Herculine, newly arrived in the U.S. after the adventures described in Reese's Book of Shadows (2002), is suddenly involved in righting the wrongs committed in a community of Virginia slaves. Encounters with the dead become major touch points for Herculine, drawing her deeper into her own supernatural power and giving her strengths she must constantly explore and hone. Reese's extensive research is apparent in his weaving of real historical characters into the story; most striking is his inclusion of the stories of Native American battles in Florida, where legends such as Chiefs Micanopy and Osceola come to life in stunning detail. No less vivid are the characters Reese creates himself: the strange and beautiful witches of the Cyprian House brothel in New York, the rotting and shrill ghost of Eliza Arnold Hopkins Poe (mother of Edgar Allan Poe), a witch named Sweet Marie who furiously guards the fountain of youth in a secret location in the Florida swampland, and Herculine, the protagonist half-man/half-woman witch whose story is so painstakingly told to the ages through his/her own Book of Shadows. Part historical fiction, part supernatural tale, this is difficult to put down and will surely delight fans of Reese's first novel as well as convert new readers to his fascinating style. Debi Lewis
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